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Syrian refugeesThe Syrian Arab Republic is a country in the Middle East with a rich and unique history that goes back as far as 10,000 years. More recently, political instability led to the Syrian civil war, which has created a humanitarian crisis that extends far beyond its borders. Syrian refugees are now found all around the world, having left their country fleeing the war. This has had a particularly severe impact on Syrian children.

The Syrian Refugee Crisis

Many Syrians have been forced to relocate in order to escape violence and the indiscriminate bombings of roads, schools and hospitals at home. The U.N. estimates that more than 6 million Syrians are displaced outside of Syria, while another 6 million have fled to other parts of the country. In the Northwest region of Idlib, nearly 900,000 Syrians have fled since December 2019.

Although many Syrian refugees have fled to overflowing refugee camps for temporary relocation and safety, others flee to unstable urban settings instead in the hopes of permanent relocation. As many as 70% of Syrian refugees are living in severe poverty.

This humanitarian crisis was recently worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic. Syrian refugees’ need for food, medicine and access to clean water has increased. Delays in importing necessities has reduced refugees’ access to these essential items.

The Sesame Workshop: Helping Syrian Children

Of all humanitarian aid for the Syrian refugee crisis, only 2% goes to education. An even smaller chunk goes to support early childhood education. Considering that nearly half of all Syrian refugees are children, this aid is essential.

In 2017, the MacArthur Foundation provided the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and Sesame Workshop with a $100 million grant to fund a childhood education program for Syrian refugees. The IRC is an international NGO that has been providing humanitarian resources in Syria since the conflict first began. Sesame Workshop, the creators of the Sesame Street educational program for children around the world, partnered with the IRC to create “Ahlan Simsim,” meaning “Welcome Sesame” in Arabic.

The show will reach Syria, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon to provide the refugees in Syria and the surrounding countries with quality education. This new version of Sesame Street is provided in both Arabic and Kurdish.

Ahlan Simsim” has three main characters. Basma is a six-year-old purple muppet with two pigtails. She loves to sing and dance and is best friends with Jad. Jad is also six years old and is a yellow muppet who just moved into the neighborhood. Finally, Ma’zooza is a funny and hungry baby goat who follows both Basma and Jad on their adventures.

These new characters start with the basics: they teach young refugees about fundamental skills, such as emotions and the alphabet. They help their young audience gain educational skills and understand the world around them in a nurturing way. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the IRC and Sesame Workshop are still providing technological learning opportunities, resources for local implementation and preschool spaces for safe learning and playing. They also continue to advocate for these essential education programs.

Moving Forward

The Syrian refugee population is considered to be the most displaced population in the world. At this point, there are many Syrian children who were born into the conflict and do not know a life without it. The IRC and Sesame Workshop are working to ensure that these children have a stable future in which their lives can be defined by new opportunities.

– Camryn Anthony
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in Central African RepublicViolent conflict that has surged since 2007 in the Central African Republic (CAR) has created challenges for the nation’s healthcare system. Humanitarian organizations, which provide the majority of the health services available, have continued working to provide adequate healthcare despite threats of violence from militia groups.

Providing Healthcare Amid Conflict

The CAR is facing a humanitarian emergency. Even after the introduction of a peace agreement among the 14 armed groups in the country in 2019, attacks against civilians and humanitarian workers persist. It is estimated that out of more than 4.6 million people living in the CAR, 2.9 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. NGOs have not stopped attempting to provide services to those displaced and hurting from the violence.

There are inadequate numbers of trained health workers in the CAR, as reported by the World Health Organization. Therefore, it has become a primary concern to increase the number of healthcare providers. This year, in addition to providing water, sanitation and hygiene assistance, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) has begun training 500 individuals to respond to the protection and healthcare needs of vulnerable communities in the CAR.

After the conflict damaged or destroyed 34% of the CAR’s healthcare infrastructure, NGOs are focused on supporting the remaining hospitals and clinics. ALIMA, an NGO committed to providing quality healthcare services to those in need, has been working in the CAR since 2013. They have provided nutritional and medical care in the Bimbo and Boda health districts and outside the nation’s capital of Bangui. Pregnant women and children under the age of five have received free healthcare through ALIMA. Just in 2016, the organization carried out more than 17,320 prenatal consultations and treated close to 75,000 children for malaria.

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) began its involvement in CAR in 2006. The health services provided by this organization target the mental health consequences of gender-based violence. Psychosocial support to women survivors of violence has remained a priority. The IRC also implemented discussion groups aimed to expand gender-based violence awareness and share strategies for prevention.

Combating Infectious Disease

Malaria, HIV and tuberculosis are a few of the prominent diseases that require intense prevention and treatment in the CAR. Doctors Without Borders has been one of the principal actors in delivering these services, treating nearly 547,000 malaria cases in 2018. The organization generated community-based groups in multiple cities to pick up antiretroviral medications needed to treat HIV, while also working to decentralize HIV and AIDS treatment in the city of Carnot. UNICEF has given additional HIV screening to pregnant women during prenatal consultations, and those who tested positive were promptly placed on antiretroviral treatment.

On Jan. 24, 2020, the Ministry of Health declared there to be a measles epidemic in the CAR; cases had been on the rise since the previous year. Between January 2019 and February 2020, there were 7,626 suspected measles cases. A significant public health response has begun to target the spread, including the development of vaccination campaigns, an increase in epidemiological surveillance and the distribution of free medical supplies.

CAR has been impacted by the current coronavirus pandemic, as the country has recorded nearly 4,000 cases as of July 3. UNICEF and partners have been able to provide free essential care, sanitation services and psychological support.

The Need for Humanitarian Assistance

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is a major contributor to humanitarian aid in the CAR. It was with the financial assistance of USAID in the 2019 fiscal year that the IRC and the NRC were able to provide healthcare resources for risk prevention. The preservation of humanitarian funding to the CAR has proven to be crucial, as conflict has further weakened the healthcare system.

Humanitarian organizations have made significant progress in recent years to combat the spread of infectious disease and provide more widespread healthcare in the Central African Republic. There is a need to expand these efforts and improve quality of life during the nation’s continued fight for peace.

Ilana Issula
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in South SudanSituated in Central East Africa, South Sudan holds the title of the newest country in the world. South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011, an agreement ending the longest recorded civil war in Africa. In the midst of conflict, people were forced out of homes and into the streets. This created a large population of poverty and homelessness in South Sudan.

The Effect of the Civil War

Rampaged by civil war and the aftermath of independence, 20% of South Sudan has been homeless since 2013. After the falling out between President Salva Kiir of the Dinka ethnic group and former Vice president Machar of the Nuer ethnic group, violence exploded throughout the newly founded country.

The conflict created 2.2 million displaced people within the country and forced one million people to become refugees. Because of the eviction from homes, people lacked access to their fields, starting a severe famine. Many homeless people reside in camps because they have a bit of food. Although the civil war ceased in 2018 with a mutual peace agreement, there are 1.76 million displaced people in the country.

Children in Need

4.2 million children need immediate assistance due to homelessness in South Sudan. Many children live on the streets after losing their families in the war, being forced into the workforce to sustain themselves. Due to the chaos, the education rate rests at 28%. Education provides students the ability to become professionals in their chosen route of study. It also starts a “brain gain” effect within the country. Students could earn money for their household and start building homes for their families.

Famine and Healthcare

As a result of the war, six million people lack proper water and meals. The United Nations estimated that around 12 million people are hungry every second in South Sudan. Without nourishment, there isn’t enough energy to suffice labor-heavy work. This makes them unable to sustain their household.

According to WHO, South Sudan has one of the world’s weakest healthcare systems. It also has the weakest poor quality treatment and limited resources. Along with malaria and other common diseases, the country reported over 2,000 cases of COVID-19. This puts a toll on the healthcare system, lacking both facilities and skilled healthcare workers. Homeless people live shorter lives when stripped from proper healthcare. With the body prepared and treated to bounce back from viruses, homeless people have the energy to make a living.

Change in Action

Despite the dire situation of the country, many organizations have volunteered their efforts to rehabilitate this promising country. For example, the International Rescue Committee provides over 1.1 million people in South Sudan with medical treatments and healthcare facilities. The organization has been at the country’s aid for over two decades, rehabilitating sanitation systems and giving out food. World Concern has set out to rebuild villages by providing people with food, shelter and clean water. It does this in hopes of creating a sustainable way of life. In 2018, World Vision sponsored 700 children to return to education, reuniting them with their families along the way. With help like this, homelessness amongst children can be reduced drastically and prevented in the future.

 

It may seem pessimistic at times for these communities, but homelessness is close to disintegration. Helping people gain access to their basic needs supplies them with the foundation to rise above homelessness and poverty. The country is full of potential; once chaos runs through homelessness in South Sudan, their light will shine.

Zoe Chao
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Iraq
About 22% of Iraqis live in poverty. Poverty in Iraq is a dynamic issue, the facets of which have changed with the country’s progress and efforts at modernization. Urbanization and the discovery of vast oil reserves have adversely impacted Iraqis with corruption and conflict driving poverty rates up. The following are four exceedingly relevant facts about poverty in Iraq and what the International Rescue Committee (IRC), a nongovernmental organization that emerged in 1933 to respond to international humanitarian crises, has done to help since entering Iraq in 2003.

4 Facts About Poverty in Iraq

  1. Urbanization and Food Shortages: Recent conflict and economic change have caused Iraqis to concentrate in urban areas. Iraq is 70.7% urbanized and is nearly unrecognizable in comparison to its agricultural past. Poor agricultural policies have catalyzed this shift toward urbanization and overcrowding in cities. This, combined with military and economic crises, has resulted in as many as one in six households experiencing some form of food insecurity. Iraq has a universal food ration program called the Public Distribution System (PDS), which is its most extensive social assistance program, but it has not been enough. Many Iraqis who have either lost access to the PDS or find that it does not cover enough, have turned to humanitarian agencies like the IRC for aid. Since 2003, the IRC has helped hundreds of thousands of people: in 2018 alone, it assisted 95,000 Iraqis, providing financial, familial, educational and professional support.
  2. Corruption and Oil: According to Transparency International, Iraq is the 13th most corrupt country. The Iraqi government often subsidizes inefficient state industries, which has led many Iraqis to view government and business leaders as corrupt. With the rise in oil prices over the past decades, Iraq’s government had sufficient funds to complete significant reconstruction and aid projects. However, poverty in Iraq has not improved. The oil sector provides an estimated 85 to 95% of government revenue. High-level corruption in Iraq impedes the development of private, non-oil business sectors, spurring overdependence on oil. Protests were rampant in 2019 with Iraqis indignant that their economy was flush with oil money but their government was too corrupt to provide basic services. Average Iraqi citizens never see oil profits due to the corrupt nature of the Iraqi government, which empowers politicians through informal agreements and patronage. Leaders hand out government jobs to build their support networks and stifle dissent, making the public sector inefficient and draining oil profits such that there is little left over for investment in social programs. While federal social programs are lacking and corruption is still serious, NGOs like the IRC have stepped in to pick up the slack and somewhat lighten the suffering of many Iraqis.
  3. Poverty and Unemployment: Roughly 95% of young Iraqis believe they need strong connections to those in power in order to obtain employment. Overall, unemployment is at 11% with one-third of Iraqi youths unemployed and 22% of the population living in poverty. The aforementioned protests in 2019 involved young Iraqis frustrated at being unable to find work, and projections determine that unemployment and poverty will worsen even further in 2020. The United Nations expects the poverty rate to double to around 40%, with monthly oil revenues falling from $6 to 1.4 billion between February and April 2020 due to the recent collapse in global oil prices. To combat these figures, the International Rescue Committee has provided over 40,000 people with emergency supplies, business training and funding to help Iraqis rebuild their lives.
  4. War and Internal Displacement: Conflict with ISIS led to the displacement of over 6 million Iraqis from 2014 to 2017, and about 1.5 million Iraqis remain in camps despite the recent territorial defeat of the terrorist organization. The rise and conquest of ISIS was a primary driver behind the increase of the poverty rate to the current level of 22%, with forced displacement and brutal violence leading to the destruction of Iraqi homes, assets and livelihoods. The above factors have struck internally displaced persons (IDPs) the hardest — few IDPs have employment and most have to support an average of six other members in their household. On top of all this is the fact that many IDPs have lost access to what little the PDS food program does supply, illustrating the true humanitarian challenge of poverty in Iraq. While the displacement and refugee issue is still serious today, the International Rescue Committee has aided over 20,900 women and girls to recover from the violence, providing hope for a battered people.

Despite expansive oil profits flooding into the Iraqi system, this money does not reach ordinary Iraqis who struggle to provide for their families. The failure of urbanization, stark unemployment and violent conflict with ISIS have exacerbated the lack of action from corrupt business and political leaders to address the systemic issue of poverty.

Experts expect global poverty to worsen during the current COVID-19 pandemic, especially in Iraq. Combined with the recent crash in oil prices, this will likely lead to serious unrest in a country that has struggled for decades to bring about some semblance of effective governance. Despite the ongoing issues that these four facts about poverty in Iraq show, hope continues to live on thanks to organizations like the IRC that are able to provide aid.

Connor Bradbury
Photo: U.S. Department of Defense

Healthcare in Burundi
Burundi is a landlocked country in East Africa with a dense population of 11.89 million people. Due to overpopulation, an ongoing humanitarian crisis and more than 73% of the population in poverty, healthcare in Burundi is unstable, and the people of Burundi are highly susceptible to the wide variety of diseases that are plaguing the country. 

Current Health Risks in Burundi

Accessibility to healthcare in Burundi continues to be an issue for civilians, shown through the rise in deaths that diseases and epidemics caused. COVID-19 has affected the country as a whole and posed a threat to the already fragile healthcare system with records of 104 cases and one death as of June 16, 2020, although the need for more resources and vaccines was already in question long before this specific virus. Without proper treatment or preventative care, diseases like measles, malaria and many other infectious diseases put the population at risk.

In April 2019, the number of measles cases increased to 857 and refugees were reportedly spreading it to communities from refugee camps. Meanwhile, there were 504 cases as of March 2020. Out of the 18 provinces of Burundi, 63% of those districts face a high risk of infection. Low immunity and vaccination rates are two factors putting communities in compromising positions.

Malaria is an ongoing epidemic in Burundi that has claimed the lives of more than 3,170 people, and it continues to spread. Reports determine that the number of cases is 1.2 million, showing a slight decline in cases in comparison to the 1.7 million in 2019. Malaria is treatable and preventable through vaccination and the proper medication; however, access to these supplies and resources is scarce.

Focusing on the Issue  

The numbers on infection and mortality rates of treatable and preventable diseases in Burundi show a need for redirection. Seeing this need, various organizations have proposed ways to put a spotlight on the lack of funding for healthcare systems and supplies and provide the funding necessary to see progress. Here are a few ways organizations are addressing this:

  • In April of 2020, the World Bank and International Development Association (IDA) put into motion a $5 million grant to prevent and counter the spread of COVID-19 and reinforce the preparedness of the health care system of Burundi as a whole. These funds will assist the country’s healthcare system in receiving necessary testing and treatments for existing diseases and epidemics. In coordination with this, the World Bank will disburse $160 billion over the span of 15 months to “protect the poor and vulnerable, support businesses and bolster economic recovery.
  • Dr. Norbert Mugabo, a medical officer from Cibitoke province, set out to vaccinate more than 17,000 children as part of a measles vaccination initiative in April of 2020. Dr. Mugabo hopes to reach children between the ages of 9 months and 15 years in light of the outbreak in November 2019.
  • The International Rescue Committee (IRC) set many goals to aid Burundi in 2020. It determined that its main avenue for providing all-around better healthcare is starting with the basics. For example, the IRC intends to rebuild hand washing stations, boosting hygiene and addressing sanitation issues. These small steps forward have the ability to make a big difference long term.

The healthcare system in Burundi lacks the resources and funding needed to help the overall population thrive. However, with the help of dedicated professionals such as Dr. Mugabo and organizations such as the World Bank and the IRC, change in a positive direction is right around the corner.

Katie Mote-Preuss
Photo: Flickr

South Sudan’s Hunger Crisis
South Sudan gained independence in 2011, and in 2013 a civil war broke out. The civil war has displaced approximately more than 4 million people and caused extreme poverty. With the country still stuck in the throngs of conflict and the population on the verge of starvation, humanitarian aid has been especially important during this time. Here are nine organizations fighting South Sudan’s hunger crisis.

9 Organizations Fighting South Sudan’s Hunger Crisis

  1. Action Against Hunger: Action Against Hunger is a nonprofit organization that emerged in 1979 in Paris, France. Currently, Action Against Hunger is fighting emergencies in many countries in Africa with South Sudan being a focus area. The nonprofit has been working in South Sudan since 1985 and has focused its efforts on the recent civil war conflict and treating malnutrition. In 2018, it provided nutrition and other health services to 178,000 people; 46,607 children received malnutrition screenings and 3,250 obtained treatment in hard-to-reach-areas.
  2. International Medical Corps: International Medical Corps is a nonprofit that has been working in South Sudan since the mid-1990s. It provides seeds, tools and food to families in need to support a better livelihood as well as 24-hour stabilization centers that provide health care services. The organization works in five of the country’s 11 states providing outpatient and inpatient treatment for acute malnutrition. Nutrition programs are in Unity, Jonglei, Upper Nile, Central Equatoria and Western Bahr-el Ghazal states and have implemented a blanket supplementary feeding program to prevent malnutrition in countries children.
  3. Save the Children: Save the Children is a U.S.-based nonprofit that has been working to better the lives of children all over the world since 1932. It provides food assistance following natural disasters, builds economic and food security within communities, strengthens socio-economic conditions and gives youths the means and information to earn a sustainable income. In South Sudan, Save the Children is the lead provider in six of 11 states with 61 primary health care facilities, 45 outpatient centers and 58 feeding programs for infants and children suffering from malnutrition. Over the years, it has given 466,579 children vital nutrition.
  4. International Rescue Committee: The Emergency Rescue Committee and the International Relief Association created the International Rescue Committee in 1942, joining forces. The organization has been working in South Sudan since 1989 but has doubled its efforts since the country gained independence and civil war followed quickly behind. It mainly works in the Central Equatoria, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Unity and Lakes states where it has opened health clinics and is providing nutrition and sanitation services to the communities. In 2018, the International Rescue Committee assisted 900,000 people in South Sudan.
  5. World Food Programme: The World Food Programme is the leading organization dealing with food assistance and providing communities with the ability to improve nutrition. Established in 1961, the World Food Programme works in over 83 countries a year. The first development program launched in Sudan and since then food assistance has increased over the years. The organization works to deliver food to hard-to-reach communities, provide school meals and treat malnutrition in children throughout the country with the help of 12,000 nutrition volunteers in South Sudan; in 2019, it assisted 5 million people.
  6. World Food Program U.S.A.: The World Food Program U.S.A. is a United State-based nonprofit that came into being in 1995. It has a partner in the United Nations World Food Programme. World Food Program U.S.A. works with U.S. policymakers, corporations and foundations to fight global hunger. The organization provides funding for the use of air-drops, all-terrain vehicles and river barges to get food to people. An average of eight air-drops, which can feed 2,000 each, occur in South Sudan. Also, it uses blockchain technology, called Scope, to monitor nutrition success cases. Over 1.4 million people have registered in the system.
  7. Humanity and Inclusion: Humanity and Inclusion, previously known as Handicap International, emerged in 1983. This nonprofit works with the disabled and handicapped communities within places facing extreme poverty, disaster and conflict. It provides services, rehabilitation and nutrition health information. Humanity and Inclusion has worked in South Sudan since 2006. The facilities had to close in 2013 due to the civil war, but have returned and now focus their efforts on rehabilitation of the country’s disabled or injured. Humanity and Inclusion work in South Sudan states Yambio, Lankien, Malakal, Bor, Bientu and Yida.
  8. Care: Care started out in 1945 and works to aid communities in emergencies. It also helps farmers, fishers and pastoralists ensure the nutrition of their families. Care has been working in South Sudan since 1993. The organization delivers emergency food assistance with care packages including sorghum, lentils and cooking oil. It also provides agricultural support, cash and environmental awareness-raising training.
  9. Oxfam International: A group of independent organizations founded Oxfam in 1995. Oxfam works to help fight global poverty worldwide, and it supports over 500,000 people in South Sudan. The organization provides emergency food distribution centers and clean, safe water to communities. In 2017, Oxfam built a solar-powered water treatment plant that reaches 24,000 people within the state of Juba. It also provides families with assets like livestock, tools, seeds and fishing gear to help people provide food for themselves, and give training on better farming methods.

South Sudan’s hunger crisis is a man-made tragedy and 60 percent of the population still faces severe hunger. Still, South Sudan is a great example of humanitarian action making a tremendous impact on communities. South Sudan has avoided famine with the help of many organizations providing food assistance, emergency aid and ways to have a better livelihood.

– Taylor Pittman
Photo: Flickr

AI to Meet the Sustainable Development Goals
Tech giants are using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to create innovative strategies to meet the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals and eradicate global poverty by 2030. A central barrier to development in third-world nations is in-access to high-quality, timely and accessible data.

Big data platforms like AI expand capabilities to acquire accurate, real-time, micro-level information, while ML allows pattern recognition at a macro-level. Combined, these data advances can make data more accessible, applicable and finely scalable while accelerating the speed and scale for private and public development actors to implement change. Companies are partnering across public, private and nonprofit sectors to broaden the collective impact.

Take a look at the innovative approaches tech giants are taking to help global poor communities with data and what the incorporation of AI technologies means for the future of global poverty initiatives. These approaches aim to employ AI to meet the SDGs within its allotted time frame.

Education and Digital Training

On June 19, 2019, the day preceding World Refugee Day, Microsoft announced the inception of two projects partnering with Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP) and Kids in Need of Defense (KIND). These projects supplement its AI for Humanitarian Action group to help incorporate AI to meet the SDGs.

The AI for Humanitarian Action group is a $40 million, five-year program part of Microsoft’s larger AI for Good suite (a $115 million, five-year project). The projects will provide AI tools to help staff track court dates, prioritize emergency cases and translate for families with AI speech-to-text. Microsoft also has continuing partnerships to incorporate AI/ML into educational services for refugees with the following groups:

  1. International Rescue Committee (IRC): This committee works to provide humanitarian aid through the creation of sustainable programming for refugees, displaced populations and crisis-affected communities. This includes career development programming and digital skills training to empower refugees and make them relevant for the job markets in each affected country. Microsoft and IRC’s Technology for Livelihoods in Crisis project in Jordan is an example of this.
  2. United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF): Together with the University of Cambridge, the UNICEF is developing The Learning Passport. The digital platform will ensure better access to education and facilitate learning opportunities for youth displaced by conflict and natural disasters. It creates scalable learning solutions tailored to each child. Crises have affected the quality of education for 75 million youth.
  3. Norwegian Refugee Council: This council is providing an AI chatbot service that uses language understanding, machine translation and language recognition to deliver high-quality education and digital skills training to refugees. This helps to close the education gap for the millions of youth affected by conflict. It will also help humanitarian workers communicate with migrants who speak other languages, which will help them best provide the best service.
  4. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR): UNHCR plans to provide 25,000 refugees in Kakuma with access to high-quality, accredited, context-appropriate digital learning and training by 2020 for development in Kakuma markets. UNHCR intends this project to expand across multiple countries.

Food Security and Agricultural Development

The fact that farms do not always have power or internet security limits technological developments that address food security and agricultural development. Here are some efforts that consider the capabilities of farmers and the respective developing regions:

  1. Microsoft FarmBeats: It aims to enable data-driven farming compatible with both the capabilities of the farmer and the region. FarmBeats is employing AI and IoT (Information of Things) solutions using low-cost sensors, drones and vision and ML algorithms. This combined AI and IoT approach enables data-driven improvements in agriculture yield, lowered costs and reduced environmental impacts of agricultural production, and is a significant contribution to help AI to meet the SDGs.
  2. Apollo: Apollo uses agronomic machine learning, remote sensing and mobile phones to help farmers maximize profits in developing markets. Apollo delivers scalable financing, farm products and customized advice to farmers while assessing the farmers’ credit risk. Apollo customizes each product in order to double farm yields and improve credit. The beta project is starting in Kenya.
  3. The International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT)/CGIAR research group: It aims to implement preemptive solutions rather than reactive solutions to end hunger and malnutrition by 2030. CIAT has developed a Nutrition Early Warning System (NEWS), which uses machine learning to make predictions on malnutrition patterns based on current and future estimates of crop failures, droughts and rising food prices. This approach is able to detect an impending nutrition crisis and take action instead of responding after the crisis has taken hold.

Socioeconomic Data Collection

According to a report by The Brookings Institute as a part of its “A Blueprint for the Future of AI series,” data providing national averages “conceal more than they reveal” and inaccurately estimate and map patterns of poverty. Survey data is often entirely unavailable or otherwise low in quality in many of the poorest countries where development needs are greatest. 39 of the 59 countries in Africa conducted less than two surveys between 2000 and 2010.

Even in large countries with sophisticated statistical systems, such as India, survey results remain inaccurate, with the gap between personal reporting and national accounts amounting to as much as a 60 percent difference in some countries. Companies are addressing this by utilizing big data from remote sensing satellites.

The Group on Earth Observations (GEO) is using Earth Observations (EO) to provide finely-tuned and near-real-time data on economic activity and population distribution by measuring nighttime luminosity. Researchers have noted a correlation between luminosity and GDP as well as subnational economic output. Collecting socioeconomic data in this way can ensure higher quality data important to policy implementation and direction to countries with the greatest development needs.

Timothy Burke and Stan Larimer launched Sovereign Sky in 2018, putting satellite data into action. Sovereign Sky is the world’s first space-based blockchain which provides secure private internet networks and powers a new Free World Currency to redistribute the world’s wealth with a goal of eradicating poverty by 2032.

The eight current satellites cover Africa and India and the organization will send boxes of StealthCrypto phones, digital wallets, smart cards and modems to people in need. Sovereign Sky will deploy 36 satellites within three to 10 years to cover the entire world in a secure blockchain internet connection, closing the gap on technological interactions between all nations and including the world’s remotest and poorest areas in internet connectivity.

Pitfalls of AI-Driven Global Development Initiatives, and Moving Forward

AI and ML have crucial capabilities in reshaping education, agriculture and data collection in the developing world. However, these technologies have a history of producing unethical racial profiling, surveillance and perpetuating stereotypes, especially in areas with a history of ethnic conflict or inequality. AI and ML applications have to adapt in ways to ensure effective, inclusive and fair distribution of big data resources in the developing world. Development experts need to be in close collaboration with technologists to prevent unethical allocations.

This diversification is why it is important that tech giants like Microsoft, and projects like those by the ICAT/CGIAR, are created in collaboration with various nonprofit, public and private sector groups to ensure interdisciplinary ethical liability for big data applications in sustainable development contexts. Ensuring the use of AI technologies is context-specific to the affected regions and populations will help prevent misappropriation of the technology and increase quality and effectiveness.

Working with local companies and sectors can create long-lasting engagement and grow permanent technology sectors in the developing areas thus contributing to the local economy. These strategies can put forth effective, ethical and productive applications of AI to meet the SDGs.

– Julia Kemner
Photo: Flickr

Yemen Peace Talks
The humanitarian crisis in Yemen is cause for despair; however, the recent Yemen peace talks in Sweden and outreach programs providing humanitarian aid are offering new hope to those suffering from the conflict. Through the Yemen peace talks, the United Nations was able to negotiate a ceasefire agreement on December 18, putting at least a pause on the war until countries can reach a further agreement. This finally opens the door to providing humanitarian aid.

Opposed to War in Yemen

Despite President Trump’s wishes, the Senate ended all aid in military assistance to Saudi Arabia following the peace talks. Thanks to Senator Mike Lee of Utah and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont for writing the agreement, the War Powers Act was used to assert Congress’ role in military power, overriding the White House. According to the New York Times, Trump was against the end of military assistance in fear that it would cost America “billions” of dollars in arms sales, putting the fear of losing money in front of regard for human life (a reference to the Saudi Prince having allegedly killed American journalist Jamal Khashoggi).

The humanitarian crisis currently taking place in Yemen was caused by war, and the only way to stop it is to end the war and promote peace. Humanitarian organizations such as Save the Children and CARE, along with several other organizations, wrote a letter to the U.S. government to use their influence to end the war. Providing more military support will only perpetuate the problem; whereas, peace will resolve it. Lise Grande, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, stated that the priority must be to increase access to currency and ensure that Yemenis are able to access shipments of food.

Humanitarian Aid

With the ceasefire in play, the focus can be shifted to the humanitarian crisis and helping the suffering people in Yemen. About half of Yemen’s population is subject to starvation and is in dire need of aid as a result of the war. “The big countries say they are fighting each other in Yemen, but it feels to us like they are fighting the poor people,” said Mr. Hajaji to the New York Times. Hajaji is a father who has already lost one child to starvation and is afraid of losing his second, who is struggling to stay alive.

According to Save the Children’s fact sheet, about 85,000 children are estimated to have died from starvation and disease since the beginning of the war in Yemen. Despite the high numbers of people who have died or are suffering from starvation, organizations like Save the Children are making a difference and increasing the number of survivors. This organization has treated nearly 100,000 children suffering from malnutrition and is operating mobile health clinics in the hardest-to-reach areas.

Ways to Help

People from the U.S. can help alleviate this issue in numerous ways. One such method is by contacting Senators and U.S. representatives through the United States Senate website and urge them to give aid and resources to Yemen. Since Yemen’s famine is income based, the best thing the people can do to aid is to donate money to those in need to survive. Organizations like Save the Children are also distributing cash and vouchers for food to families as well as education and safe spaces for children to keep getting an education despite the harsh circumstances and ongoing recovery from war trauma.

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is providing outreach through healthcare, nutrition, water/sanitation services and by providing financial assistance to those struggling survive. Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) is providing education, food security, shelter and water outreach to many Yemenis. Volunteer and/or donating to these organizations will help their work reach more people.

The resolution of the Yemen peace talks to enact a cease-fire and the U.S. halting its military assistance to Saudi Arabia serve as a positive catalyst for change in the right direction. The ongoing battle is now the aid for Yemenis in an attempt to end their critical condition of poverty. Organizations such as Save the Children, IRC, NRC and UNICEF are providing outreach and saving people’s lives, making significant progress in the work to end Yemen’s humanitarian crisis.

– Anna Power

Photo: Flickr

five NGOs are petitioning the government to end the war in Yemen
The war in Yemen between Houthi rebels and the Saudi led coalition has created the world’s largest humanitarian crisis. Despite the dire situation, there is reason to hope. On November 26, five NGOs petitioned the U.S. Government to call an end to the war. Two days later, the U.S. Government announced it would add an additional $24 million to USAID’s Office of Food for Peace. On December 13, the Senate voted to end the United States support of the Saudi coalition. These are the five NGOs that are petitioning to end the war in Yemen.

Since 2015, there have been more than 16,000 civilians casualties, 22.2 million people, including 11 million children, are in need of aid and eight million are at risk of famine. The war has led to a host of other problems as well, including a cholera outbreak and a lack of access to clean water. Many organizations are trying to stop the conflict in Yemen. These are 5 nonprofit organizations working hard to protect the people of Yemen.

These are the 5 NGOs that are petitioning to end the war in Yemen

  1. International Rescue Committee (IRC): The International Rescue Committee, headed by David Miliband, a former U.K. Secretary of Foreign Affairs, is focused on humanitarian relief operations in war-affected areas. Right now it operates in more than 40 countries, and its refugee resettlement program operates in 28 U.S. cities. The IRC has been providing aid to Yemen since 2012, working to protect women and children as well as provide access to healthcare and education.
  2. Oxfam: Oxfam is a global organization working in more than 90 countries to end poverty. Led by Abby Maxman, the former Deputy Secretary General of CARE International, Oxfam believes in identifying and changing the root causes of poverty rather than just sending material aid. Through fighting and eliminating injustice, Oxfam feels that poverty can finally be eliminated. The organization has been working in Yemen since 2015 to prevent diseases by providing sanitation, hygiene assistance and clean water to those affected by the war.
  3. CARE: CARE is active in 93 countries around the globe working to combat social injustice and poverty. The organization is headed by Michelle Nunn, who previously ran the organization Points of Light and had been a candidate for the U.S. Senate. CARE current goal is to reach 200 million of the world’s most vulnerable people by 2020. CARE has been working in Yemen since 1992 and is currently providing food, water and sanitation to one million Yemenis people each month.
  4. Save the Children: Save the Children is an organization that works in the U.S. and around the world to provide for underprivileged children. It is headed by Carolyn Miles, who has been with the organization since 1998. Save the Children is active in 120 countries worldwide promoting nutrition, health and education programs. Save the Children is doing just that in Yemen by treating almost 100,000 Yemenis children for malnutrition through mobile health clinics.
  5. Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC): The Norwegian Refugee Council started its relief efforts after World War II and continues its mission to this day. The organization is active in 32 countries across the world to provide clean water, education, camp management, legal aid, food assistance and shelter to refugees. The Norwegian Refugee Council is headed by Jan Egeland, who has been with the organization since 2013 and was appointed in 2015 by the U.N. as special envoy to Syria. In 2017, the NRC has provided food for more than 300,000 Yemenis and shelter to more than 50,000.

These 5 NGOs that are petitioning to end the war in Yemen are all fighting for a better world for the world’s poor. Through their work, they were able to spur the government into action. Since the petition, millions of dollars have been added to the aid package for Yemen, and the U.S. has voted to end its military involvement in the conflict.

Peter Zimmerman
Photo: Flickr

War in SyriaSyria’s civil war has been raging on for eight years now. The conflict has created a huge population of 5.7 million refugees in critical need of humanitarian assistance. The resulting humanitarian crisis is one of the worst the world has seen in recent years. Several organizations are on the ground trying to provide humanitarian solutions for the victims of war in Syria.

Syrian Democratic Forces

Recently, the Islamic State (IS) made its last stand to desperately hold on to the last tiny piece of territory it has, a small town in Eastern Syria called Baghouz. In September 2018, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) initiated what they hope to be their final military push to reclaim IS turf. The operation has been excruciatingly slow and deadly.

Civilians are struggling to slip out of the militants’ grasp and into the global humanitarian community. The SDF is working to help extract the civilian families out of the last holdout of IS fighters. It is believed that several thousand people are still huddled together in the final IS enclave. The people pouring out of Baghouz to seek shelter from the war in Syria pose a huge humanitarian challenge.

Almost 40,000 civilians have already left the diminishing IS territory, but the flow was severely interrupted when IS fighters closed off all exit roads. IS extremists were obstructing civilians from escaping, using them as human shields from airstrikes. Now, small groups of refugees sneak out into humanitarian corridors with the help of smugglers. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is a humanitarian organization working to help refugees escape the war in Syria and to monitor refugee movements.

Save the Children

Children escaping from the war in Syria are especially in need of humanitarian assistance. Beyond food, health services, education and other basic needs, child refugees require mental health services. Syrian refugee children consistently show signs of psychological trauma. Save the Children is striving to provide necessary services for Syrian child refugees. Among other things, they are working to establish recreational spaces and centers for unaccompanied children in the refugee camps. They provide mental health and socializing services in a safe environment for war-weary children.

According to Save the Children, the war in Syria has made it the most dangerous country in the world for children. In Syria, 5.3 million children need humanitarian assistance. Children are not only the victims of violence but also the targets of abduction and recruitment into armed groups. In three refugee camps in North-East Syria, there are more than 2,500 children from at least 30 different countries.

There is much work to be done, and Save the Children emphasizes that the organization is in dire need of more support. Extra funding is necessary to provide case management and protective services for more children. Foreign children need their countries of origin to facilitate repatriation. Save the Children urges the international community to help preserve family unity and aid those returning to their countries of origin from the war in Syria.

Other Humanitarian Organizations

Humanitarian organizations help 700,000 people each month in North Eastern Syria. In March, Brussels will host a pledging conference to raise more funds for humanitarian aid to Syria. In 2018, various nations collectively raised $5 billion for Syrian relief. In Syria, the United Nations aid feeds around 3 million people each month, and U.N. medical assistance has treated nearly 3 million patients.

The U.N. and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent have been cooperating to transport and deliver large amounts of aid to refugee camps in Syria. On February 6, the largest of such shipments arrived in Rukban, a refugee settlement in the demilitarized zone established by the major warring parties. The majority of Rukban’s inhabitants are women and children. The convoy included 133 trucks loaded with food, health and nutritional supplies, hygiene materials, education items, children’s recreational kits and vaccines. The aid came at a critical time to help save the lives of at least 40,000 people who live in the settlement.

The Syrian Society for Social Development (SSSD) is another humanitarian organization working to enhance the lives of marginalized Syrians. They improve and provide schools, community centers, safe spaces, elder care facilities and other communal programs. Since the beginning of the conflict, they have been able to increase the scope of their assistance in both geographical range and by the number of people helped. Their programs have benefitted more than 1 million people.

There are organizations doing everything they can to help Syrian refugees survive and return to a peaceful life. Thanks to the efforts of thses humanitarian organizations, refugees, who have been surrounded by airstrikes and extremist violence, have shelter against the harsh Syrian winter.

Peter Mayer

Photo: Flickr